Reviewed by: Spencer Schumacher
Why are humans supposed to wear clothes? Answer
How can I be and feel forgiven? Answer
If God forgives me every time I ask, why do I still feel so guilty? Answer
|Featuring||Emile Hirsch, Marcia Gay Harden, William Hurt, Jena Malone, Brian Dierker, Catherine Keener, Vince Vaughn, Kristen Stewart, Hal Holbrook, Dan Burch, Joe Dustin, Zach Galifianakis, Cheryl Francis Harrington, John Jabaley, Thure Lindhardt, Robin Mathews, Kathleen Mattice, Parris Mosteller, Signe Egholm Olsen, Haley Ramm, J. Nathan Simmons, Susan Spencer, Haley Sweet, Bryce Walters, Merritt Wever, Steven Wiig|
|Producer||David Blocker, Frank Hildebrand, John J. Kelly, Art Linson, Sean Penn, William Pohlad|
“Your large adventure on Alaska.”
After years of tutelage from Hollywood luminaries like Eastwood, Allen and Malick, there is little doubt that Sean Penn can create realistic characters who are on a journey to work out their flaws. He has shed light on such introspective characters in his previous directorial outings, “The Crossing Guard” and “The Indian Runner.” Now Penn turns the lens on real life character Christopher McCandless. Emile Hirsch poetically plays the Messianic sojourner who after graduating from Emory University decides to give up his fathers’ dream of sending his son to Harvard and gives away his college education savings of $24,000 to a charity to end poverty. He instead packs his bags with dreams and hopes and heads for Alaska to live in the wilderness.
On his way to Alaska he encounters many colorful characters, starting with Rainy and Jan, two hippies that pick him up and transport him for part of his journey. Occasionally, he has to find work to support his journey, and his first job takes him to a wheat field owned by Wayne (Vince Vaughn) where he operates a combine. With each life he meets, he learns a little more about his life and his purpose. Part of his purpose is a lesson in forgiveness, as we find out about childhood injuries inflicted on Chris and his sister by their father (William Hurt) while their mother (Marcia Gay Harden) did nothing to stop it.
The relationships that Chris (who adopts the name of Alexander Supertramp during his journey) builds are not one-sided, as the people he meets are equally transformed through their meeting of Christopher.
The heart of this picture dwells in issues of forgiveness and love. On his last stop of civilization before going “into the wild,” he encounters Ron Franz, played by veteran screen actor Hal Holbrook. Ron confronts him and tries to convince Alex to go back and settle things with his parents. He also talks to Chris about God and tries to convince him to let him adopt him before he goes.
There is a very spiritual message at the heart of this movie. While in the desert he comes across a man who molds and paints statues that are colorfully emblazoned with scripture and slogans of God’s love. The man is genuine and authentic and never played to be mocked or reduced to a religious nut or stereotype.
As far as objectionable material, the film is relativity mild when compared to most Hollywood fair. Yes, there is some profanity, particularly when Alex is talking with Wayne or having a philosophical conversation with Rainy, however, since most of the time he is alone on his Alaskan Adventure, the only talking he does is with nature. There are a few scenes of nudity. First, he comes across a couple from the Netherlands, and the woman spends half the scene topless after emerging from a swim. There is also a scene where Chris floats down a river naked. Lastly while in the final leg of his journey he crosses through a nudist camp.
Another scene which some viewers may find difficult to watch involves Alex’s survival skills. Since he is living in the wilderness, he has to survive on what he eats, which includes killing and preparing animals. There is a scene in the movie of Alex preparing a large moose which may be disturbing to some viewers but is in no ways gratuitous, as the scenes’ purpose is to offer Alex a lesson.
The acting and directing are all top notch, as the performances by every character are very subdued, and you feel like you are watching everyday people rather than Hollywood actors. Most of the characters seem to be cast from the numerous towns this film was shot at, rather than Central Casting. The only aspect that outshines the performances is the scenery in which the performances take place, the film is simply beautiful to look at.
If you are not offended by the language and nudity, this one man journey ‘into the wild’ is worth exploring.
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.